Dead Or Alive review

:. Director: Takashi Miike
:. Starring: Riki Takeuchi, Sho Aikawa
:. Running Time: 1:45
:. Year: 1999
:. Country: Japan


Breaking the conventions of Yakuza films in an ultimate act of rebellion against greedy producers, Takashi Miike made his reputation as an iconoclast filmmaker with Dead or Alive, a wobbly and self-destructive work where provocation and grotesque take center stage.

The film opens with a long syncopated sequence, a lewd video clip walking us through the hollows of Shinjiku where gangsters and prostitutes rub shoulders in an orgy of depravity and violence. The film then changes tones, switching to a conventional narrative following the confrontation between a police officer, Jojima (Sho Aikawa), and a group of gangsters led by Ryuuichi (Riki Takeuchi). A banal and worn-out subject were it not for Miike's innate sense for provocation: repulsive moments, sex, sadism, corruption, unexpected sacrifice of his main characters abound, Dead or Alive officiating like the electroshock of a genre, just like Visitor Q "revisited" the reality show later on. But the most memorable scene is without any doubt the climax, an extraterrestrial joke ridiculing with proud arrogance all filmmaking rules, if there are any.

Imposed with straight-to-video stars for his cast, the director embraced this universe in his own way. Closer to an adult manga than to a thriller Dead or Alive, exciting for some, exasperating for others, finds its legitimacy in its resolutely nihilist approach rather than in its intrinsic film value. An apostle of excess pushing his audience into a corner, Miike mostly succeeds when he manages to channel his madness (Audition, Itchi The Killer), his more outrageous moments resulting in objects of curiosity.

  Fred Thom

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